Being a lawyer is highly-coveted, difficult to attain profession that many try and few succeed, and the best of the best are well-compensated and admired by a lot of people. To be a truly great lawyer, though, you have to be humble and have great communication skills so that you can confer with clients from all walks of life. However, there are times when even the most patient, down-to-earth lawyers can't help but violently facepalm when faced with the sheer stupidity of someone whom they're supposed to represent in a courtroom.
Whether it's a woman who can't seem to grasp why lawyers charge fees instead of working for free, or a delinquent tenant with zero concept of how 'double jeopardy' works, these people are so dumb it's a miracle they aren't in jail already. Here are some of Reddit attorneys' craziest, most astounding stories about the stupidest thing they've had to explain to a client. Content edited for clarity.
"I once had a client who had lost his job and then his wife left him. He had a breakdown and went out speeding on his Ducati, got pulled over, and refused to remove his helmet. He ended up in a wrestling match with the cops and was arrested and charged with everything you can imagine.
Using his circumstances as mitigating factors, I got him an amazing deal that shocked the heck out of me and he was essentially ordered to pay a small fine. Right after the gavel landed, this ignoramus gave his arresting officer the finger and mouthed, 'Eff you,' to him.
The judge saw it plain as day and held him in contempt of court before threatening to revoke the plea deal. I had to frantically explain to my client why he should never behave like that in court, and as a result of his actions, he got a psychiatric evaluation and probation time added to his fine."
"A 'friend' of my dad once tried to sue him. Why? Because the friend's dad had died and, since my dad was like a father to his friend, the friend wanted my dad to give him money every month just like his dad did when he was alive. Apparently his lawyer's explanation was to simply say, 'That's not how that works.'"
"I recently received a call from a guy who found out that Long John Silver's was microwaving his baked shrimp combo. His plan was to eat there for every meal for a year and then sue them for false advertising. He changed his mind when I explained that he would probably die of a heart attack before reaching his one-year goal."
"Before going into a negotiation for a divorce separation agreement, I sat down with my client and we set clear, specific goals for visitation, spousal support, etc. In the negotiations, I exceeded every goal. We got more money than she told me she would be willing to settle for, more visitation/custody, and every one of the little particulars she wanted in the way of personal and real property. Total victory, conceded to by the opposite party.
A few days later, she called me up and said, 'He's such a jerk, let's mess him up some more. I want to drag this through the courts for as long as possible.' It took a while, but I eventually explained to her that we had already won, it was time to move on, and going against our signed agreement at that point would probably result in a less favorable outcome compared to what we had already achieved."
"I once was contacted by a couple who had paid for a trip to see the midnight sun in Northern Norway. They wanted to sue the travel agency when they found out it was the same sun as always. I had to explain to them that there's only a single sun, and that they can't sue a travel agency for selling a midnight sun trip."
"I once had a client call to complain about a fee they had been charged:
Client: 'I don't understand why I have to pay this money.'
Me: 'That's the fee for our services.'
Client: 'But you said it was a no win, no fee case.'
Me: '...and you won.'
"I did a career shadowing at a law firm before deciding what I wanted to study at college to see if law was for me. I sat in with an attorney while an older lady explained that she wanted to sue a tenant.
Her story went on that she knew he had been stealing from her for a while. She'd noticed money missing from the house, checks missing from her safe, trinkets no longer there. But she felt sorry for him. He was on hard times and money is just money and so she's never passed charges or formally accused him. But today... well, today was the final straw.
She had fetched her grandson from school and brought him home and gone to make him lunch. She opened the fridge and some cheese and ham she had bought specifically for her grandson's lunch were missing and that had crossed the line. She wanted to sue the tenant, press charges, whatever could be done. So the attorney said, ok, do you have a record of everything that has been taken over the years so we can start off by laying a charge against him with the police for the thefts.
No, she says, not over the years. Just today. She only wants to press charges over today. For the missing cheese.
Her attorney sat there trying his hardest to be professional whilst repeating at her, 'You want to press charges and sue over missing cheese?'"
"One time I had to explain to this jagoff that he should settle with the mother of his two kids about the child support amount. I tried to get him to agree to give her $150 a month, but he didn't want to give her anything because he was 'jobless' (he was working with a cousin of his and got paid in cash).
I had to explain to him that the judge didn't care about him, just his kids' health and well being, so he should try to settle or the judge would probably choose an amount way higher than $150. He still said no, claiming that I didn't understand the situation because I'm a woman. That's when I blew my lid and asked him to look for another lawyer."
"My father told me about this case he ended up not taking: The guy was admittedly wasted, driving a snowmobile down train tracks when, surprise, he got hit by a train. He didn't die because the train had slowed down as much as it could while blowing its horn to try and get his attention.
He alleged he couldn't hear the horn or see the conductor's attempts to wave him off because he was 'too wasted to comprehend it.' He wanted the railroad company to pay his medical bills, damages to the snowmobile, and all the other extra stuff that went along with the accident.
My father didn't take the case because he's not a greedy lawyer and he's NOT AN IDIOT. After he told the guy he wouldn't take the case, the man got really upset and couldn't understand why 'nobody will take my case.' My father was the 8th lawyer he'd talked to."
"I had a mediation last week with a client on a really crappy case and managed to settle for a decent amount. I then explained to the plaintiff her share of the settlement after 'paying the bill.'
She was confused, so I explained that I was speaking about our fee and expenses. She then got upset because she thought we were taking her money. I had to explain what a contingency contract was and how we were compensated for our services. The conversation took a turn for the absurd when I had to explain that I did not, in fact, work for free."
"I work on appeals, which means I spend more time with the law than with real people, but the law has some gems, such as this gentleman: At the police station, the arresting officer advised the defendant, both orally and with a consent form, of his Miranda rights. The defendant refused to sign the consent form and stated that he would 'never' waive his rights. At the same time, however, he asked the arresting officer if he could speak to him 'man to man.'
At that point, a detective with the task force entered the room with the evidence of the illicit substances gathered from the inventory search of defendant's Corvette and advised the defendant of the charges that would be filed against him.
To this, the defendant responded, 'You think this is big time, this ain't nothing.' The detective then asked the defendant whether he was willing to provide them any information, and the defendant responded that if he were released with his substances in his possession that night, he would call the police occasionally with information on certain people he felt needed to be off the streets.
The detective then started to leave the booking area, when the defendant said, 'And I want my all my stuff back.' When the detective asked him whether he was referring to the substances discovered in the Corvette, the defendant responded that he was. File that under, 'You should definitely exercise the right to remain silent.'"
"I'm a paralegal who used to do workers' compensation cases. I've had to explain many times to clients that they are not actually entitled to a settlement so long as their employer paid a portion of their lost wages and medical bills for the injury.
One especially difficult client got it into his head that he was owed money because they 'cut on him' despite the fact that his surgery was completely paid for by the insurance company and was actually successful. He was mostly healed and could work.
When I explained that that wasn't the case, he decided to tell me that he would go work somewhere else and collect the comp check there, too. He hung up on me when I told him that such a maneuver would be fraud and he could then be sued by the insurance company."
"I once had a client who was living in voucher-based housing and he smoked a pack a day inside his apartment for years until the walls started to accumulate tar. Needless to say, that was a violation of the lease.
He was being evicted and I helped him negotiate a move out and settlement where he wouldn't get an eviction on his record, which would nullify his voucher. The minute after we got out of court and the settlement was entered, he was like, 'Eff those guys, I'll be darned if I don't smoke three packs a day in the new apartment!'
I said, 'Dude, you can't do that, you just promised the court you wouldn't.'
He replied, 'Yeah, but those dummies can't try to evict me again, double jeopardy!' I then had to explain to him that double jeopardy does not apply to evictions and you can, in fact, be evicted more than once by the same person. He replied, 'Well, that ruins a lot of my plans.'"
"Oh gosh, this is the story of 'the client who would not go away,' a woman who was refinancing her house with her husband. They already had a mortgage, but she was convinced that the bank was trying to take the house away from her. I spent about six hours with this couple face to face over the course of six weeks.
I usually don't spend more than 45 minutes on refinances because most people completely understand what they are doing. She was incensed at her husband being the borrower while she was the co-borrower. When the bank finally relented and switched her to the borrower, she didn't want him on the paperwork at all. I don't know how long it took me to convince her that it didn't really matter who is the borrower and who was the co-borrower.
After they had signed all their papers, she called our office no less than 12 times. She had gone through the entire stack of documents, read every word, and circled every time the word 'transfer' was mentioned. She said that meant the bank was transferring the title to her house.
She took every word out of context and would not listen to me when I tried to explain that you can't just pick words out of a document and make them mean exactly what you want them to mean. Eventually, my staff banned the couple from our office.
Nonetheless, they would show up at random times with stacks of paperwork, asking questions that had already been answered many times. Their lender even stopped taking their calls. The last time she called, my secretary told her that she would be getting a bill every time she called from then on. When they asked about getting their wills done, one of my assistants told them that we didn't do wills anymore."
"I'm a criminal defense attorney in Texas and I once had a situation where my client was charged with domestic assault because the police needed someone to charge. She hired us shortly after her arrest.
After talking with the prosecutor on the case, they agreed not to file charges against my client. This is known as a DNF, or Do Not File. Normally, most clients are excited about such a situation because they don't have to worry about the rest of the criminal process. However, this client was having none of that.
She said it was ridiculous that they DNF'd her case. She demanded that I contact the prosecutor and order that they file charges against her so that she could have a jury trial on the case. I had to explain why that was a bad idea, but she wasn't buying it. She said that it was my job to do what she wanted.
Long story short, I had to have what we call a 'come to Jesus' meeting with her. I told her that we would not be demanding charges be filed against her, our client, because that would make us pretty bad criminal defense attorneys. Further, as the case stands now, she has zero convictions on her record and that won't change. Her way would risk her having a conviction. She told me she would just strip because her life was ruined."
"I'm an investigator for a public defender's office and I once had a guy who wanted to contest a driving under the influence charge on the assumption that he had used mouth wash, even though he had two readings taken 20 minutes apart.
Mouthwash does raise readings for a breathalyzer, but it evaporates quickly. His lawyer explained to him that his defense wouldn't fly against expert testimony, but the guy still wanted to go with it. I can only imagine it did not end well."
"I witnessed this case when I was still in law school and crossing off my judicial observation requirements. It's important for this story to point out that all of this occurred in the Southeastern United States.
The case involved a burnt out truck engine; the plaintiff was alleging that the defendant, a drive up oil change place, had shortchanged her and only given her 2/3's of the oil she was supposed to have received when she got the oil changed in her truck. She came to this conclusion because her engine fried within weeks of getting her oil changed.
The defendant's allegation was that they had given the girl the proper amount of oil and she had fried her own engine. It came out through the course of discovery that the girl was known for going 'mud bogging,' commonly referred to as 'goin' muddin'.'
If you aren't from the south and don't know what this is, it's an organized activity where a group of people get together, get wasted, and then race their trucks in an extremely muddy field; think drag racing with jacked up pickup trucks in 3+ feet of mud. It is essentially one of the most redneck activities you can engage in.
The defendant's plan to get out of liability was to convince the jury that racing at high speeds through thick mud burned out the engine, not a shortage of oil. To sum things up, the defense was pretty much: 'The plaintiff is a redneck and messed up her own car.'
I arrived at the courthouse early that day to make a good impression along with 2 or 3 other law students. The plaintiff's attorney saw a random group of people there to observe and, being the nice guy that he was, came over to introduce himself. He explained a little bit about the case (roughly what I typed above), made small talk, and asked us questions about law school. After chatting for about 5-10 minutes, he excused himself and returned to his place at the counsel table to wait for his client to arrive.
About 15 minutes after he sat down, his client walked in. She was a younger girl, probably 18-19 years old, with a shaved head. Her choice for attire that day was...interesting. She was dressed in blue jeans, a short sleeve button-up camouflage shirt, and a trucker hat. Seriously, I can't make this stuff up. In a case that essentially hinged on whether or not the plaintiff was a redneck, the plaintiff decided to show up to court looking like a Confederate flag.
I looked at the plaintiff's attorney when she first walked in; he saw her, looked horrified, and then simply hung his head. He did his best but, surprise surprise, the jury ruled against her. I learned a valuable lesson that day: it doesn't matter who your client is or how intelligent they may seem, ALWAYS over-explain appropriate attire with them before a courtroom appearance."
"I've had to explain many basic concepts to many dumb clients. For example, sending a poorly written, poorly drafted letter on a scrap of paper claiming that you couldn't attend a hearing due to some illness (or worst of all, the non-specific ailment 'stress') is not going to cut the mustard. The judge will want to see a consultant's letter with details as to how long the treatment has been going on and what exactly about the illness made it impossible for you to travel to or appear in court.
Or having to explain that a handwritten note saying that you called Mr. X who said he didn't have the information you needed is not sufficient compliance with directions that you were to ask Mr. Y for the information. Or that if you didn't contribute to the deposit paid for a house, never contributed to the mortgage, and lived there for years without paying rent to your relative, no, you don't have a legal or beneficial interest in the property.
If you have a power of attorney over your elderly relative's estate and she loses her faculties, you can't just withdraw a six-figure sum to help your son's business out of trouble, and you certainly can't buy him a brand-new luxury motorcycle for his birthday when the most your relative ever used to spend on presents was $20 or else the charities which are the sole beneficiaries of the relative's will are going to be ticked."
"During a civil dispute over unpaid fees, we were on the phone with the defendant:
Defendant: 'I don't have to pay these fees because of X, Y and Z.'
Us: 'Okay, provide us with evidence of X, Y and Z please.'
Defendant: 'Sure, you just have to pay me an administration fee to get them.'
Us: 'What? This is evidence in your favor. Without it, we will have to go to court and the court will demand evidence anyway.'
D: 'I will not hand them over for free.'
Us: (Loud smack of collective facepalm.)"